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Steelers angered, embarrassed by players' missteps

By Alan Robinson
AP Sports Writer / April 12, 2010

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PITTSBURGH—The six-time Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers don't like losing -- or being embarrassed. To a family owned team, image is more than an attractive logo.

So when the Steelers were humiliated on the same day by two star players who, only 15 months before, teamed to provide one of the franchise's most memorable moments, they reacted without their usual deliberation and with an uncommon bit of anger.

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is apparently off the hook legally for his alleged sexual assault in Georgia, but his troubles aren't over. He must meet with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, possibly as early as this week, and could be fined or suspended under the league's conduct policy.

There are more issues, too, for a franchise player who won the Super Bowl twice in his first five NFL seasons.

Team president Art Rooney II, known to be frustrated and exasperated with Roethlisberger's lack of maturity and judgment, said the quarterback must win back his teammates and his city.

"During the past few weeks, I have met with Ben on a number of occasions, not only to discuss this incident, but also to discuss his commitment to making sure this never happens again," Rooney said in a statement. "The Pittsburgh Steelers take the conduct of players and staff very seriously. Ben will now have to work hard to earn back the respect and trust of Steelers fans, and to live up to the leadership responsibilities we all expect of him."

After the Goodell-Roethlisberger meeting, Rooney said, the Steelers "will determine the next steps in the process."

Star receiver Santonio Holmes, who caught the Roethlisberger pass that secured the Steelers' Super Bowl victory over Arizona in February 2009, was traded Sunday night to the New York Jets for a fifth-round draft pick after the Steelers learned he would suspended four games for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.

Holmes already had angered the club. After being accused in a lawsuit of throwing a drink on a woman at an Orlando nightclub, Holmes answered with a long string of comments on his Twitter account in which he suggested a fan should try to kill himself and others that detailed the player's love of partying.

Only last month, coach Mike Tomlin said the Steelers' standards for their players "are above and beyond that of our peers."

That's why, as a prosecutor outlined Monday in great detail the embarrassing specifics of the nightclub incident involving Roethlisberger and his alleged victim in Milledgeville, Ga., the Steelers were equally furious over their star's conduct and the damage the allegations caused them.

Holmes, whose ability and production were upstaged by his frequent off-field troubles, was cast off to the Jets for what seemed like minimal compensation for an accomplished receiver, but the Steelers' main goal clearly was to cut ties with him.

"We believe the move is in the best interests of the Pittsburgh Steelers," director of football operations Kevin Colbert said.

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